Cipha Sounds has been a staple in the New York City hip-hop scene for years. Coming into the game as a DJ, Cipha was able to turn his raw ambition, determination, and love for music into so much more. Cipha surpassed his dreams and became one of legendary Hot 97’s most recognizable personalities. Never one to be satisfied with his current position Cipha also became a successful artist manager, A&R, and music executive. And to add to his ever growing list of accomplishments, Cipha started his own improv show where he not only participates in the improv but does a stand-up comedy routine. Cipha is most definitely a jack of all trades in this game we call hip-hop. Men’s Mag Daily caught up with Cipha Sounds to discuss stand-up comedy, who he feels are the hottest new artists in hip-hop, and why when it comes to working too much is never enough.
Men’s Mag Daily: You came into the game as a DJ. Did you think you would ever reach the level that you’re currently at?
Cipha Sounds: I don’t really look at it like that. I just like to work and I always believed that if you do what you love then you’ll get paid for it. I honestly don’t feel like I’m anywhere right now because I have so much stuff that I want to do. It’s funny when people ask me questions like that. I look back and see what I’ve done and the list is crazy but I’m definitely still working and have so much more I want to do.
Men’s Mag Daily: So coming up, was being a DJ the main priority? Is that what you really wanted to do?
Cipha Sounds: Yeah, yeah, I thought I would take over Flex’s spot. I thought I would intern for Flex, be his underling for a little while, and then he would move on to do other things and I would take over his spot on the radio. Who knew he was gonna stick around this long? Especially when he got on TV I was like, “He’s about to be gone, I’m gonna take over.” He never left. That’s when my on-air personality started coming out instead of just being a DJ.
Men’s Mag Daily: You guys bring a lot of new artists up to the show. How do you decide who you’re going to have on the show? Do you and Rosenberg just sit down and talk about who is hot or what?
Cipha Sounds: Um, yeah, that’s hip-hop talk. Those conversations just come up all the time though. We don’t have an official meeting or anything but if you think somebody is hot you just bring it up. We just stay current with what’s going on. Rosenberg is way more up on the underground type of artists. He’ll bring up an artist and I don’t even know who it is but slowly I’ll become a fan.
Men’s Mag Daily: You’ve seen a lot of artists and at their earliest stages. Who was the one artist who just absolutely blew your mind?
Cipha Sounds: It’s different people for different reasons. Like right now, I love Bodega Bamz. His performance is crazy. His joints that he puts together are fire. He reminds me a lot of Busta Rhymes. He’s not as fun and lighthearted as Busta was, like he has some harder joints but kind of like that same energy. Shoolboy Q, I like him a lot. He’s just a real humble person but when he gets on the mic he goes crazy.
Men’s Mag Daily: You’ve been successful on a lot of fronts from artist management to being an A&R and I’m not sure a lot of people know the full history of your accomplishments in those arenas. What do you look for in an artist that makes you want to nurture them and help bring their career along?
Cipha Sounds: As far as management goes, because A&R is different, but as far as management goes if an artist isn’t willing to work as hard as me then I can’t really mess with them. I work super hard and if I’m working super hard for your career because I want you to pop off because if you do then I will too in terms of reputation but if an artist isn’t going to work as hard as me then I can’t do it. I wake up at 5:30 in the morning so I don’t wanna hear about anybody being tired or not wanting to do something. If you don’t want to do this then don’t be in the game, just get a job. If you want to write for somebody or something then that’s one thing but if you wanna be in the spot light then you have to turn it up.
Men’s Mag Daily: I see you guys supporting New York City hip-hop but a lot of people say you don’t. Does that bother you when people say you don’t?
Cipha Sounds: Yeah, everybody says that but when an artist says that we don’t support New York then they’re really saying we don’t support them. What people don’t understand is that we’re not an underground hip-hop station. We are a mainstream radio station. We’re not catering to the hardcore hip-hop fan who wants that underground sound. We cater to the casual hip-hop listener that turns on their radio on the way to work or school just for a little entertainment. If you’re in the studio every night and the club and you’re like a hip-hop junkie Hot 97 isn’t really where you’re gonna go anyway. We do try to take artists like that and break them but it’s not like you play somebody one time and that’s it. It takes a long time. You have to do it strategically do it, it takes time.
Men’s Mag Daily: I feel like some of the guys that say it actually have hot music and are just frustrated but I feel like a lot of them just don’t have the quality of music that deserves to be played on one of the biggest radio station in New York City.
Cipha Sounds: Yeah exactly and there’s some dudes that just don’t cater to a certain audience. You don’t play football at a baseball game, you play baseball. We’re a mainstream radio station so we play mainstream hip-hop.
Men’s Mag Daily: What about all the stand-up and the improv? When did you start to get into that?
Cipha Sounds: I’ve always been into comedy and people always told me I’m funny but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be a successful stand-up or anything. It just got to the point where for me I really started studying the craft and learning as much as I could about it. Being around so many comedians I was able to do that.
Men’s Mag Daily: I was actually impressed that you do stand-up because in my opinion that’s one of the hardest things you can do.
Cipha Sounds: Yeah there’s no middle. Either you kill or you bomb and when you bomb it feels horrible. When you’re up there alone if people don’t like it it’s like they don’t like you, you know?
Men’s Mag Daily: Are you still involved in the artist management side of things?
Cipha Sounds: Yeah, definitely. I just don’t like to put myself in a box man, I just love music. I love making music, producing music, I love music. I like artists that I don’t have to babysit, that I could just set up with my connects or whatever and they’re good. I love actually creating music. I’m all over the place with it man. I’ll leave a hip-hop show then go straight and do a stand-up show. I love it all. I just love to run around and do it all. People tell me I should stick to one thing and I ask them why? Why do I gotta stick to one thing? I like doing a lot of things.
Men’s Mag Daily: When you do interviews, do you prefer to interview like a serious hip-hop artist or just a crazy reality TV star like Stevie J?
Cipha Sounds: I love Stevie J but I would say my absolute favorite people to interview are like the classic hip-hop stars, the ones who really got some stories, you know? But like when it comes to reality stars I don’t really like interviewing them but I like having them around to converse with. Because I mean, what is there to really interview them about? A couple of them may have a song coming out or there’s a rapper on the episode but other than that it’s not much really.
Men’s Mag Daily: Being that you’ve probably heard every MC in the history of rap, do you have a top 5 list?
Cipha Sounds: I’m never good at these man. It always changes. I’ll go home and put a Ghostface album on and think he’s the greatest ever. But I will say this, Biggie is the greatest ever.
Men’s Mag Daily: Okay, so Biggie is number one no matter what?
Cipha Sounds: Yeah he’s my number one. I mean, I never get tired of listening to biggie no matter how many times I listen to it. If I listen to Illmatic, I’m gonna be like Nas is the illest ever. Kanye too, I can never really get tired of him. I love Outkast too.
Men’s Mag Daily: Are you an actual Outkast fan because I feel like a lot of people forgot about Big Boi and just like Andre 3000?
Cipha Sounds: Nah, I’m an Outkast fan. Let me tell you, Big Boi is nice, he’s dope. You know his only problem is? You know his only problem in life? He’s in a group with a guy who happens to be like the dopest MC ever of all time. If Big Boi was solo it would be a different story. He just kind of gets overshadowed by Dre. But he’s ill.
Men’s Mag Daily: So Ciph to wrap it up, what should we be on the lookout for?
Cipha Sounds: I got so much goin’ on. Hip-Hop Improv, Take It Personal. I got a TV pitch right now so hopefully we’ll be getting that on television real soon. Me and Drew Ski are putting an album together right now. It’s basically what Khaled does for the South we’re trying to do up here in New York, trying to get that same feel. I’m not trying to be a rapper or anything but I’m just trying to get our rappers working together again. Get them in the studio and let’s work. Then also I’m working with the kid City Boy Dee with the Good Belt Gang. This kid is just a monster. I don’t even like to have people directly under me because they might annoy me but this kid is serious, I like working with him.
Article By: Jon DaBove